January 7, 2006 14:42 | Confession / Culture / Political / Social


"Have the courage to change what you cannot accept,
the strength to accept what you cannot change,
and the wisdom to know one from the other."

I've long admired this proverb but it never quite sat well with me. I know why now. Or rather I always sensed why, but now I can explain it.

True wisdom lies in accepting all, including what may seem unacceptable.

The trick lies not in the acceptance, but what you do with what you have accepted. To not accept is to reject, and when you reject something, you are finished with it; you no longer have any possibility to do anything with it, be that change it or place it on the back shelves of your consciousness.

When the world presents you with a gift, you accept it. Now you can choose to do many things. If it is repulsive to you, have the courage to change it, or the strength to hide it away and bear the weight of doing so. If you cannot change it yourself and you feel you must, have the temerity and drive to recruit others to help you.

Equally important is, if the gift is joyous, have the generosity to share it others. :)

This has been on my mind for a very long time. Very often when speaking of buddhism and zen with people, their perception of these philosophies is that they are dismissive and lead to complacency because of their focus on accepting the world as it is. This is very far from the truth however. One cannot truly appreciate anything without accepting it when it appears before us. Accepting something affords us to chance to inspect it and to know it more deeply.

I accept that there are atrocities in the world. So far I have shouldered the burden of merely carrying this knowledge along with me, all the while being mindful of it, watching it, learning it, and my relationship with it. All of this is by no means an excuse for inaction--another misunderstood concept of zen and buddhism; action and inaction. I accept also my actions/inactions but know that they will eventually move into directed action.

The lesson here is that acceptance is not a destination, it is a starting point. Once you have accepted something, you must choose what to do with it and how you will live the relationship with what you have accepted.